What a day it's been.
Today was arguably one of the most spectacular and enjoyable days of the tour. This beauty of course, comes with its respective consequences; a beautiful day exploring the mountains comes with aching calves and glistening sweat. Regardless, it was extremely rewarding and the view- breathtaking.
We also had to say our farewell to our excellent bus driver, Louis. If there was anyone on the tour who made our journey as comfortable as it was [apart from the teachers of course ;) ] it was Louis. He has been with our group since Amiens- which was 12 days ago!!! His heartwarming smile and amazing lederhosen will always be remembered. Louis is a man who is always willing to make the extra effort to go a little further- always helping loading and unloading the bus, going up dangerous and steep roads, and on numerous occasions stopping even public transport so that life would be a little easier for us. The man is simply a legend.
With the power I have received from writing today's blog, I would like to deeply thank Louis for all his efforts and being the best bus driver ever.
Im sure everybody agrees that Salzburg is one of the most beautiful cities we've visited on the tour. It is also the birthplace of one of the most composers to be ever alive- Wolfgang Ameaus Mozart, and the shooting scene from 'The Sound of Music'. It was nice to simply take a deep breath and relax in the mountans or in the deep forests, or to walk on the banks of the river.
Today was physically enduring and mentally exhausting, but if you ask anyone on the tour, im pretty sure they wouldn't have changed it for the world. There's something about being 1500m above sea level, and halfway across the world- with a view so mesmerizing that it stops us dead in our tracks, and makes us forget about our shaking quads and the blistering heat. Today was a day that made us appreciate where we were and how far we've come ; away from the stresses of school, into the arms of pure beauty.
Our next stop after the castle was the ice caves hidden deep inside the mountains. But first we had to get there. The road to the ice caves was steep and filled with tight turns. It was as if them made it impossible for buses to get there.
Luckily, we had Louis, our legendary bus driver who was determined as ever to get us there. For 20 minutes Louis wrestled the bus up the hill, pushing the bus to it's limits while making sure it didn't go kaput. We finally reached the end of where the bus could go, but this was only halfway.
We then hiked a short distance to hop on a cable car which could give anyone motion sickness thanks to its swinging motions. After this was another short walk and we were there. As soon as we approached the cave we could feel the cold but obviously some people underestimated how much the temperature would drop inside the cave.
One of our group members went in without a jacket and an other walked with Birkenstock sandals on his feet. As soon as the door to the cave opened, a constant gale of very cold wind blasted us in the face, so strong that we had to hold our hats on. This phenomenon was caused by the cold cave air mixing the warm summer air outside.
The inside of the cave was something special. In the middle of summer, tucked deep inside a beautiful mountain laid walls of ice sometime 25m thick and double as high. Some of the ice dated back to 5000 years ago while other parts of the ice wall dated back to last winter. There were also two natural sculpture displays, one of a polar bear and another of a shark each shaped by the melting and freezing of the water over time.
It was amazing and a real eye opener to what Mother Nature can really do. The secrets hidden inside this cave, encased in its beautiful and vast mountain was definitely a sight I did not expect to see.
One of our last bus trips, the drive from the hotel to Hohenwerfen Castle (the location of "Where Eagles Dare") was the most scenic yet. Impossibly large to us Australians, the Austrian mountains loomed over us. They largest peak being 500m taller than Mount Kilimanjaro. Even these were only foothills compared to Mount Blanc or the other highest peaks of the Alps.
Arriving at the castle, a brief climb awaited us. A little more awake and a bit out of breath we arrived at the castle gate. At the top of the castle steps Nick sums up the climb: "it would of been a bastard to attack".
Now inside the castle walls, it was time for a guided tour. Meeting our thematically dressed guide Pete we set off. One highlight was the sets of torture devices, including a pit for the treasonous, a humiliating helmet for an "annoying" or overly talkative spouse and a set of stocks.
Which Jonah volunteered to demonstrate the use of. We climbed to the top of the 350 year old clock and bell tower, admiring the view and chime. Perhaps the most memorable feature of the castle was its view. Each arrow "loop" framing a section of the picturesque valley.
After a brief break we settled in for the birds of prey show. Explaining the habitat of each bird, the announcer gave insight to the special attributes of each bird. Like one falcon that could reach speeds of up to 300km/h. From the patriotic bald eagle to the threateningly large vultures, each bird was unique.
Speaking of the vulture,
they seemed to be the least fortunate, with one longing on a member of the audience and Alex standing up just as one was flying towards him from behind. A collision was narrowly avoided by some evasive manoeuvres from the raptor.
By Woojin Lee, Hudson Lund and Alistair Shaw